Hybrid is here to stay, and it’s sure to turn work on its head. Introducing new ways of working and relationships will be the name of the game as employees, leaders and organizations navigate the redesigned work landscape. To successfully manage change, you must start with the people. Ensuring that hybrid work for them is not only good for employees, but also good for business – based on helping people succeed so they can be their best at work. And there are definitely ways hybrid works best.
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Hybrid can go wrong in a number of ways – from assuming that the home is for personal work and the office is all about socializing (both wrong) to assuming it’s possible to command people’s enthusiastic return ( also wrong). Companies that get it right will strike a delicate balance, offering enough choice and flexibility, and engaging people to fully engage in a dynamic and magnetic culture. Companies that thrive will be the ones that inspire people with common goals while recognizing unique contributions. And companies would do well to promote the well-being of their employees – by consciously creating a holistic work experience that nourishes employees and achieves great results.
The stakes are high, especially given the talent revolution – but companies can consider key elements to manage change and help people transition into the office – by supporting employees as their work involves not only the home environment but the also more time in the office includes office.
Here’s what works best to make Hybrid buzz and ease the transition to another work in the future of work.
#1 – Vision and Direction
Figuring out how a hybrid approach works best is an opportunity to reinvent the future of work. But too often it is managed at the tactical level. Details like who is scheduled to return, on what days and with what performance expectations are clearly crucial, but ensuring a vision of the future is part of the mix will also be crucial.
Ensure that the organization’s vision and mission are inspirational, that they are strongly linked to hybrid working strategies, and that they are communicated effectively by leaders. Inspire people with a clear “why” about how hybrid work supports meaningful strategy, enables rewarding work, and contributes to your culture. Speak up about your hybrid approach so people know what to rely on.
#2 – Intentional work
As people adopt a hybrid model — spending some time in the office and some time working from home — it’s also helpful to coach them on how to decide what work to do and where. While this may seem obvious, it generally isn’t. Suggest criteria for when people should come and when they could work from home. Recommend that individuals consciously determine where they work for specific tasks, and suggest that teams have discussions about the points in their projects where it’s best to work face-to-face, fully remote, or hybrid.
For example, people may want to come into the office when a project requires complex problem solving and face-to-face collaboration. When having difficult conversations or solving tricky problems, it can be better to be together in the office. People may also want to be in the office to build relationships with co-workers or when they want to harness the energy of being with other people. And maybe they want to stay home for routine jobs or tasks that don’t require many different perspectives.
Hybrid work is most effective when employees reflect on their own preferences, work patterns, and team processes so they can make informed decisions about where and when to work, within the guidelines set by the organization.
#3 – Curiosity
With so much information constantly bombarding people, attention is one of the scarcest resources today. But curiosity can be a catalyst for action. Smart companies are rethinking their work experiences and modernizing offices for the new ways people work, and this can provide opportunities to spark curiosity.
Let people know how the office has changed and invite them to discover what’s new and interesting about the workplace and work experience – the refreshed culture, improved processes, and updated tools and technology.
People don’t want a return to normal. They want something better than the gray labyrinth of cubicles they left two years ago, so meet the demands for improvement and invite them to discover new ones. Whether it’s new gathering places or enhanced spaces for privacy and quiet, or it’s cool new technologies that allow people to work better together across locations, or great new ways to unwind surrounded by natural elements – all of it can be discovery and interest points.
#4 – Piloting
Smart companies will also experiment with new workplaces, new policies, and new practices. Anyone who claims to know exactly what hybrid work will bring is either ignorant or arrogant or both. In reality, nobody knows exactly how the work will turn out – and it certainly will. Best practice for organizations will be to create opportunities to try new approaches or test new collaboration technologies, and then deliberately seek input from employees so improvements can be made over time.
Ideally, the process of fully realizing hybrid work provides a rich opportunity to learn about the meaning of work, how leaders need to lead differently, and how work experiences need to change to accommodate new work dynamics. It will be important to listen to feedback, capture learning and make continuous improvements over time.
#5 – FOMO
One of the main reasons people want to be in the office is to reconnect with their colleagues. But while you’re standing around the coffee pot and talking about March Madness, it’s nice, people want more. They want to build social capital and their networks. They want to feel connected to a social fabric that nourishes them and makes them feel known and valued. They want to expand their learning because growing skills together is one of the most effective ways of learning.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can be a great way to force people back into the office for part of their work week. People have an instinct to matter, and work is a powerful way to express their talents, use their skills, and contribute to communities. When people come into the office and share their positive experiences, it creates a forward drive for others to join and be part of the culture, connections, and camaraderie.
#6 – Phasing
Businesses shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the shift employees will make as they start spending more time in the office. Work schedules and locations impact daily and weekly schedules, from childcare to grocery shopping. Going out to work means earlier in the morning, later in the afternoon, changing the patterns of what gets done and when – and how people live their lives.
As a result, phasing will be tremendously helpful. Instead of requiring employees to return to the office three or four days a week in one fell swoop, making it easier for people to get to the office will work better. For some, the immediate shift might be fine, but for others, it might be better to schedule a day or two in the office for a couple of weeks, followed by more days in the office over time. This surge will help people adjust their work patterns and routines for life.
Overall, achieving success with hybrid work will be a process that requires conscious management of change. Unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone (almost) everyone went home at once, the return was enormously fragmented. Organizations have had to handle this very differently depending on the industry, customer, region and job.
And while the fragmentation is understandable, it has created a significant need to provide a strong “why” for hybrid approaches, a meaningful incentive for people to return, and a new level of conscious planning for when, where, and how people will work . With intentional effort, the hybrid future is sure to be bright.